By Jana Seitz
I’ve accidentally established a quaint routine for the end of darkness. Each year as the clock springs forward to herald the happy fact that we survived winter, I grab my repair kit and some young children and head out to work on the Manursing alligator, an old log transformed by a neighboring family. My kids and I soon began decorating it for “the holidays”.
Spring brings a host of golden daffodils to this fair lane, a glorious treat with a short lifespan not to be missed. We prep the gator just in time to welcome them. Winter is tough on the old gal. We yank out her rusted teeth, hammer in shiny new ones, slap on a fresh coat of paint, then dress her in a spring frock for the next special occasion: St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, or Easter, depending upon when the moon will wax after the vernal equinox.
This year the gator’s spring debut was St. Patrick’s Day, a few days before the first day of spring (in theory), and a great pairing by Mother Nature. Beer and birds. Shamrocks and sunshine. Limericks and lilies. Ah spring! The first burst of warmth on your non-sunscreened face, blue skies, fat robins, your soul reawakening….and then BAM! Yet another nor’easter blows in. A blanket of snow buried our gator yet again, dashing our hope of springing eternal.
By March I am done with the cold. I am done with skiing, with snowshoeing, with cute sweaters and boots, with anything that requires snow. I pack up my gear after February ski break, happy to wait until next year. Closed for the season. I was conditioned in my formative years by warm springs and flowers in bloom. March is the cruelest month of all above the Mason-Dixon line.
One thing I’ve found to console myself in endless winter is riding horses in the snow. Usually by now the ground has thawed enough that no layer of black ice lurks below to ruin your day. Snowdrops and bulbs are rearing their lovely heads on the trail. It’s a dreamy dream to ride in soft powder through the woods beside a newly thawed babbling brook.
I grew up riding Western or bareback on old Indian trails along the Ouachita River in the woods of Louisiana. I had no style, no grace, and no fear. Our horses knew the way, and we’d hold on to their necks for dear life as they flew around curves, under thick vines, and over gullies. We hung out at the stable all day, grooming and gossiping, while country music played on the FM and cicadas buzzed in the background.
The riding scene prevalent around here — ring riding English-style — intimidates me and is a different beast from the aforementioned dream I’m craving. My posting isn’t pretty, and I grab for a horn that isn’t there. You can’t throw a stone around here without hitting an English stable, but finding a solid saddle and somewhere to trail ride is a challenge. Liability is the biggest issue of course, and I’m sure I’d find the same problem at home in Louisiana today. I had a great stable in Millerton, owned and operated by a former NYPD detective in full cowboy regalia who looked like Sam Elliott, but he up and disappeared this winter (perhaps connected to his old day job).
I’ve branched out and done some recon to share.
<<Westchester Trail Rides>> (www.westchestertrailrides.com)
Cowboy Bob: 539-2987 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Walk, trot, and canter through hundreds of acres adjacent to the Croton Reservoir. A beautiful red barn, country music on the FM, and a chicken coop from which Bob gives you fresh eggs. The Croton Gorge Dam is just down the road for a lovely walk after your ride to get your land legs back.
Three rings, no trails, but a great vibe and lessons if you need them.
Western trail rides for ages 7 through 70 on 117 acres of Hudson Valley splendor since 1965. Snow rides embraced. Walk, trot, and canter.
<<Rocking Horse Ranch Resort>>
Must be a guest at the resort to ride, but they’ll give you great rein if you know what you’re doing.
Stablemate at Westchester Trail Rides
Riding on snow-covered Westchester trails
A solid Western saddle horn
View of Croton River from the Croton Gorge Dam